This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fix It Yourself Or Call A Repairman?

Posted By Paul

I've never considered myself to be especially handy around the house. My first instinct when something needs to be fixed is to call a professional.

However, a little while ago I decided that I would make a specific effort to handle more repairs around the house myself. Partially as a way to hopefully save money, but also as a way to learn more about fixing things in general.

The first thing I discovered is that it's really hard to be handy around the house without at least a basic set of tools. I spent some time accumulating tools (I would buy them, or ask for them as gifts when people wanted to know what to get me), and before long I had a basic but versatile set of tools (which I'll list here):

1) A ratchet set.
2) A set of wrenches.
3) A hammer.
4) A rubber mallet.
5) Some vice-grips of varying sizes.
6) An adjustable pipe wrench.
7) A set of screwdrivers.

Without at least a basic set of tools you have very little chance of successfully fixing something around the house.

So whenever something broke around the house I went with the philosophy that if I try to fix it myself then as long as I don't make it worse I can always call a repairman later.

Here are some of my experiences:

At one point our refrigerator wasn't defrosting properly. I contemplated trying to fix it myself but I quickly discovered that a modern refrigerator is a pretty complicated device so I ended up calling a repair man. In this case the problem ended up being a bad circuit board (amazing that refrigerators have circuit boards now) that the repairman took care of in a few minutes. In this case calling the repairman was the right call since it would have been nearly impossible for me to diagnose that the circuit board was the problem.

The next thing to go was our dryer. The tumbler spun but it never heated up. I decided to take a shot at this and this wasn't too bad. Thanks to the internet I found instructions for gaining access to the inner workings of my dryer (be sure to search for your specific dryer, I assumed you accessed everything from the back but many dryers are best accessed from the front or sometimes even from inside the drum). Once the dryer was open it became pretty clear what was wrong. It was simple to spot the heating coil and when I noticed that it wasn't warming up when I ran the dryer I removed it and found that there was a gap in the coil wire. I found an appliance parts and repair store that was able to order a replacement coil, I put it in place, and the dryer was as good as new.

The next thing to go was our clothes washer (you're probably starting to think that all of our appliances are junk but these incidents took place over several years). It seemed like it wouldn't drain properly and the display gave an obscure error code. A quick search of the internet suggested that the drain pump was either clogged or broken. When I opened the washing machine up I was able to spot the drain pump pretty easily. I noticed that the motor shaft looked stripped so I decided to remove the motor/pump and order a new one. Once again the appliance store was able to order me a part. This time it was a bit more of a gamble since I wasn't 100% sure that this was the problem, but when I got the new motor/pump I noticed that the new part was MUCH better designed and more durable than the one that was in there originally (which gave me hope that in fact this WAS the problem part and also annoyed me a little to think that they didn't design the more durable part in the first place). It only took about 10 minutes to install the new part, and the washer was good as new.

I know practically nothing about appliances but I am amazed at how much you can accomplish with a few basic rules:

1) Search on the internet for the problem and see if anyone else has run into it and posted a solution.

2) Take the thing apart and look for a part that is obviously broken and replace it.

3) When you take the thing apart do so CAREFULLY so that if you do need to call a repairman you haven't broken anything and made the problem worse.

The more you start trying to fix things around your house the easier it becomes to dig in their and poke around, and thanks to the internet you have a whole world of expertise at your fingertips.

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